The campus of Georgia Regents University/Augusta State University frequently receives visitors curious to see the results of transforming a federal arsenal into an academic institution. The recent construction of a History Walk at the university which includes information on the arsenal, the Summerville neighborhood, and the city of Augusta has increased interest in the Walker Family Cemetery which is located on the western boundary of the campus and which predated the arsenal. When Freeman Walker sold the adjoining land to the government for the arsenal, he retained one acre for the family cemetery. Included in this document are historical sketches of seven of the prominent members of the family who were buried in the Walker Cemetery during its first seventy years.
 
The tract acquired by the government for an arsenal had been the property of Freeman Walker, who was born in Charles City, Virginia, in 1780. During the post-revolutionary period a number of Virginians came south and settled in this region rather than follow the westward trend. In 1797, Freeman Walker and his younger brother Valentine came to Augusta to study law.(1) Two elder Walker brothers George and Robert were already practicing attorneys in the city. Law and public service proved successful careers for these young men.(2) By the time Freeman and Valentine arrived, George Walker had served in the Georgia Assembly and, in 1798, he was elected to the first town council established by charter that year as well as being returned to the State House of Representatives. Only thirty-eight when he died in 1804, George was the first to be buried in family cemetery.(3) Robert Walker served as solicitor general of the Superior Court from 1804-1808, and judge of the same court from 1813-1816. He died in 1825 of "pulmonary disease," a common cause of deaths recorded during the period and was interred near his brother George.(4)
 
The youngest of the Walker brothers Valentine also had a distinguished career as a practicing attorney, a justice of the Inferior Courts of Richmond County and a state senator for several terms. During the War of 1812, he served as a major general with the Georgia Militia. When President James Monroe visited Augusta in 1819, Major General Walker and General Thomas Glascock took him on a tour of the U.S. Arsenal being constructed beside the Savannah River.(5) In 1832-1833, Valentine Walker was in the midst of local tensions created by the Nullification Crisis. When South Carolina declared a tariff passed by Congress as "null and void" in that state because it would hurt the southern economy, President Andrew Jackson replied that he would meet civil disobedience with force and threatened to use troops to collect the tariff in South Carolina. Valentine spoke against nullification and in support of national unity over individual state action. Although many other speakers disagreed, his position was accepted as the majority opinion at a town meeting.(6) Valentine Walker, who was influential and respected until his death in 1852, was eulogized by the Daily Chronicle and Sentinel as a "gentleman of the Old School."(7)
 
Among the Walker brothers, Freeman Walker achieved the greatest political success. In addition to serving in the Georgia Assembly several terms, he was also mayor of Augusta and a U.S. senator. Shortly after arriving from Virginia in 1797, he began studying law with his brother George. Five years later he was admitted to the bar and started a local practice. Freeman Walker entered the political arena in 1807 and was elected first to the state legislature as a representative and then as a senator. He was the first to be called "mayor" of Augusta, for his election in 1817 coincided with the transfer of the title from intendant to mayor.

Following two additional one-year terms, Walker was appointed to the U.S. Senate to fill the vacancy caused by fellow Augustan John Forsyth's resignation to accept a position with the State Department.(8) During his tenure as a U.S. senator, Freeman Walker served on the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Judiciary Committee.(9) In 1821, he resigned from Congress, returned to his law practice, and, two years later, again became mayor of Augusta.(10)
 
In 1817, the year he first became mayor, Freeman Walker acquired "400 acres, more or less . . . being the late residence of the deceased George Walker, and known as the Bellevue Tract" from Abraham and Amaranth Louisa Walker for $2,000.(11) It was seventy-two acres of this land that he sold to the government for an arsenal in 1826 for $6,000.(12) But, he retained an acre within the boundaries of the sale for a family cemetery, which already contained the graves of several relatives. The following year, Freeman Walker died at the age of forty-seven and was interred in Walker Cemetery. Noted poet, mayor, congressman, law professor and personal friend Richard Henry Wilde wrote his epitaph.(13) In tribute to this famous Georgian, Walker County in the northern part of the state was named for him.(14)
 
Freeman and Mary Garlington Creswell Walker had nine children, five of whom survived childhood. Sons William Henry Talbot and John David pursued military careers rather than the legal profession so prevalent among the Walker family men. John David Walker, who enlisted in 1846, fought in the Mexican War and was wounded at Churubusco. Later, he joined in the filibustering forces of William Walker (unrelated to the Augusta Walkers), in the latter's attempt to gain control of Nicaragua. Early in the Civil War, John David enlisted in the Army of the Confederacy. As a major in 1862, he commanded the First Georgia Regulars and was wounded in August of that year in the second battle of Manassas. The leg injury became gangrenous and resulted in his death. Although he was originally buried near the battlefield, later in 1871, he was interred in Walker Cemetery.(15)
 
William Henry Talbot Walker , who was born in 1816, graduated from West Point in 1837; commissioned a second lieutenant, he served under Colonel Zachary Taylor in the Seminole War during which he was wounded three times. Walker also saw action in the Mexican War when in a two-year span, 1846-1847, he received three promotions, the last being to lieutenant colonel. Again wounded in combat, his recovery from this injury required over a year. To honor his bravery in both conflicts, the State of Georgia presented him with a sword.(16) When he was able to return to duty, W.H.T. Walker was at first an instructor at West Point and later assigned to the frontier.(17)
 
Upon Abraham Lincoln's victory in the presidential election of 1860, Walker resigned from the army and became active in the secession movement. When moderates obviously controlled an Augusta town meeting at the City Hall in December, Walker led the secessionists from the building to rally on the steps.(18) The following month, Georgia seceded and the U.S. Arsenal on "the Hill" became a Union enclave. At first refusing a call to surrender, Commandant Arnold Elzey reversed his earlier decision when local militia units began to assemble in the downtown area. He requested that he be allowed to relinquish his sword to W.H.T. Walker, a former classmate at West Point.(19)

Walker joined the Confederate Army as a brigadier general and after a brief assignment in Florida, he was transferred to Virginia. Before long, he was unhappy with what he felt was preferential treatment being given to certain officers. A month after he resigned, Georgia Governor Joseph Brown gave him command of the 2nd Georgia Brigade, assigned to protect the Savannah.(20) By the end of 1862, disagreements over defense strategies between the high command and local officers resulted in Walker's unit being dissolved. In February 1863, Walker rejoined the Confederate Army and in May was promoted to major general.(21) He served at Vicksburg with General Joseph E. Johnston and after that city fell, he was sent to the defend the Georgia-Tennessee border. When the southern forces were unable to prevent the Union penetration into north Georgia, Walker and his men pulled back to Atlanta. General W.H.T. Walker was killed in the Battle of Atlanta on July 22, 1864. His funeral cortege from the train depot downtown Augusta to Walker Cemetery on the hill consisted of the Palmetto Band, military units, and a long procession of carriages.(22) Walker's statue, representing the City of Augusta, is one of the four generals depicted on the Confederate Monument on Broad Street which was dedicated in 1878.(23)
 
Not all of the Walker family gained their renown through politics and /or the military. Octavia Celestia Valentine Walton, the daughter of George Walton, Jr. and Sarah Minge Walker Walton, was born on August 11, 1811, at Bellevue, the home of her late maternal grandfather, George Walker. Her paternal grandfather was George Walton the signer of the Declaration of Independence.(24) When she was ten, her uncle U.S. Senator Freeman Walker secured a position for her father as Territory Secretary for Florida. According to tradition, Octavia suggested the name "Tallahassee" (the Seminole word for "Beautiful Land") to the Florida administrative committee, which had recently selected the site for the capital of Florida.(25)
 
The intelligence and charm that she exhibited as a young girl remained important components of her character and her relationships with prominent national and international individuals. Octavia had a talent for languages and by an early age could speak Spanish, French, Italian, and German.(26) She met and conversed in French with the Marquis de Lafayette during his 1824-1825 visit to America at which time he predicted a "brillant career" for her.(27) While on a visit to Baltimore in 1827, she met Edgar Allen Poe who was so impressed that he wrote the poem, "Octavia," in her honor. Several years later, she shared a stagecoach with Washington Irving, and the two became friends and correspondents. During the time of her debut in Washington, D.C. in 1833, she attended congressional sessions and kept notes of the proceedings. These proved to be so accurate that Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, John C. Calhoun and others called upon her to refresh their memories of debates.(28)
 
In 1835, George Walton, Jr. and his family moved to Mobile where, within a year, Octavia met and married Dr. Henry Le Vert. Of the five children born to the couple, only two daughters survived. Octavia Walton Le Vert, Jr. was nicknamed "Diddie" by the family and Henrietta Caroline, named for Henry Clay, was called "Cara Netta."(29) For many years Octavia and Henry Clay had corresponded frequently, and he had visited her family in Mobile. When the cornerstone was laid for a monument in his honor in New Orleans in 1856, Octavia Walton Le Vert was asked to deliver one of the tributes to the late "Great Compromiser."(30)


The home of the "Madame" Le Vert , or "the Countess of Mobile," as she came to be called, was a magnet for the political, social and intellectual elite who visited the city. Her summers were spent in the cooler climate of Saratoga and Newport. Over the years she numbered among her friends such individuals as William Wadsworth Longfellow, Edwin Booth, Edward Everett, Millard Fillmore, Alexander Stephens and Lady Emmeline Stuart Wortley, the daughter of the Duke of Rutland.(31) Her friendship with Lady Emmeline prompted Octavia Walton Levert to expand her travels to Europe. On her first trip in 1853, Dr. Le Vert stayed in Mobile; however, he did accompany her in 1855. While she toured Europe, Mrs. Le Vert was introduced to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, Benjamin Disraeli, Pope Pius IX, Emperor Napoleon III and Empress Eugenie, Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning, and Alphonse de Lamartine, the French statesman and historian who encouraged her to publish her travel journal. Following his recommendation, the two-volume Souvenirs of Travel was printed in 1857.(32)
 
Through her discussions and correspondence with Henry Clay, Octavia Walton Le Vert came to believe that compromise was far better than conflict. Therefore, when the talk around Mobile turned to secession, she supported the preservation of the union through compromise. Most of Mobile turned on her and rumors even circulated that she was a "Yankee" spy, who had searched the papers of Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard while he was a house guest. Upset over the accusations, the general wrote a denial of the rumors.(33) But, "Madame" Le Vert keenly felt the resentment she endured in Mobile both during and after the war. After several years of periodic travel, even two years touring as a public reader, she returned to her birthplace, Augusta. Octavia Walton Le Vert died on March 12, 1877, and was buried in the Walker Cemetery. As the years passed, the people of Mobile forgot the gossip and remembered her with admiration and respect. In the restored "Oakleigh" House, a room was dedicated to the memory of the lady who had been called the "Countess of Mobile."(34)

Portrait of Octavia Walton LeVert by Rossignol
Link to END NOTES & BIBLIOGRAPHY